The Cloister Vs. The Bazaar

My metaphors in this post are Facebook is a cloister, while Twitter is a bazaar. What is a “cloister”? A “cloister” is a covered walk in a monastery, college, or cathedral, typically with a wall on one side, and a colonnade open to a quadrangle on the other side. It is also a place where monks or nuns live. A “bazaar” is a market, a marketplace, a mart, or exchange. Another word for “bazaar” is “souk”, which is a bazaar in a Middle Eastern country.

By definition, a cloister is exclusive, and closed, but open only to initiates. We call initiates “friends” on Facebook. Facebook is renowned for being the place where the initiates go to echo themselves. That is its well-earned reputation. Fake news, anyone?

Also, by definition, a bazaar is open to all. It is inclusive. You do not have to pass a test–an initiation–to get in. In an exchange or marketplace, things must be functional to sell. For stuff to be saleable, it must work, for its given purpose.

In a market, by definition, for an item to sell, the buyer and the seller must agree on a price that will move the merchandise. So, there is a lot of agreeing going on at a market. But, at the market, there are also disagreements, and these can range from “haggling”, where the buyer and the seller debate what something should “go for” (the price), with the buyer trying to get a “better” (lower) price on an item. Further, we know that out-and-out fights take place in markets. On Twitter, haggling is a debate, and a fight is an argument.

Bazaars are inherently bigger deals than cloisters.

Statements, concepts, ideas, memes, songs, videos, and the like are commoditized in our society. They are monetized–people can control intellectual property, and offer these “things” for sale. We can make money from our intellectual property. That is how our market works.

Some of this has ancillary, negative, unfortunate effects, if we cannot convince someone to pay us for our services, work, output, creativity, etc. These effects are not “externalities”. For instance, no one will pay me to write this post. I will not get paid for it. There will be no remuneration for my output. Honestly, I am not happy about that, but the more urgent need is to create; to gather my thoughts; to put them in words; to propound my ideas, and then spread them around, as wide, and as far, as I know how. I believe that my ideas in this post are profound, useful, helpful, and valuable. Just because I didn’t get paid doesn’t mean this post is worthless. I need to get it out. It needs to be out there. I have original ideas that are meaningful in this world.

I have three examples to discuss that point to the conclusion that if you want results, whatever they might be–intellectual traction, followers, professional opportunities, diversity of opinion, novel experiences, and chances to “connect”–the bazaar of Twitter is superior to the cloister that is Facebook. I challenge you to test your ideas against the larger world that is Twitter.

Recently, I learned of racial discrimination against a black person working in a retail store in Des Peres, MO. I grew up in Des Peres. I put this information on both Facebook and Twitter this morning.

Now, I gotta cop to something: When I started this piece, Twitter was winning in the virtual world, hands down. I had conducted a short, poignant dialogue with Franni Coffi, an actual friend of mine from #Ferguson, (she is not “from” Ferguson). Franni and I have visited in person several times. She is a black woman a little older than I am, who now lives in out-state Missouri, in the country, closer to Kansas City.

Franni and I are connected on both Twitter and Facebook. She is “erbody’s grandma”, (I love that), @FRANI20 on Twitter. We found each other through #Ferguson. We have some important things in common.

Franni saw my tweets about the racial discrimination, and we began to talk. We discussed our childhoods in school, white flight, the demographics of West St. Louis County over time, and prejudice.

Franni said something that jumped out at me. She was one of only four blacks in her high school. She said, “I thought it was normal to be treated different.” If you turn that around, that means that white kids thought it was normal to treat her differently. That has implications, implications that I don’t have the room to discuss in this post.

On Facebook, I had three “likes”, and one comment. Now, forces are coalescing on Facebook to help the person being discriminated against in real life, or what is shortened to “irl”. I think Twitter wins this one, and I will tell you why.

Anyone in the world who wished to see the discussion between Franni and me could do so, if they knew how. They could move on the information, to help the person that prompted the discussion; and they could learn something from two people who have been around the block, so to speak. Further, our themes were substantive, and they were these: Diversity is beneficial. Prejudice is harmful. The world needs these messages. These messages need constant reinforcement. It is good for people to see these themes, regularly. I give these concepts great symbolic weight.

Facebook has facilitated–quickened–the process to delve into the racial discrimination case. It was easy for me to notify others about the particulars of the case, using Facebook. In fact, that is how someone who works on minimum wage issues for a living found out about it, and is contacting the victim as I write this.

But, we were already going to do whatever we could about it, in real life, and the only people who could see my post were either actual friends, or acquaintances who can see what I write on Facebook. The whole world, potentially, was not going to find my post on Facebook, the way it is set up.

I cannot, at this point, minimize Facebook’s role in a possible remediation of the problem. It goes against my thesis. I will risk putting it out there, because I attach significance to what Facebook allowed me to do; I grant it symbolic heft. This shows the value of time, of waiting, to see what develops from these “posts” we make on social media.

My second example stems from a miscommunication on Facebook, which happens all the time without the visual and physical cues we provide one another in person.

I like to use sarcasm in my speech, and online. I think it is a very effective rhetorical device. I love sarcasm. It is often used by smart people. To be crudely blunt, folks I do not consider to be extremely bright do not seem to use sarcasm nearly as much as people I consider to be highly intelligent.

So, I began to conceive a riff that I thought would be more appropriate for Twitter, than for Facebook, because people are so touchy on Facebook. The problem began on Facebook, where somebody didn’t “get” my sarcasm. (I should say that the person who didn’t get it is highly intelligent!! Natch.) (Also, you can get away with more on Twitter, if you are willing to take the heat).

Basically, what I said on Twitter was that you had to be very smart to be able to use sarcasm and be understood most of the time. I went on to say that using sarcasm is, most of the time, a “FAIL”. It doesn’t work. It gets you in trouble. I said I can’t resist it.

I went on to say that if “you’re wondering about smarty-pants over here, you should know two things”: I don’t give a lot of credence to IQ tests because they are culturally biased, (or they certainly were when I took it in 1968); and that I took the test at Stanford University. The test is called the “Stanford-Binet IQ Test”. I remember they told me I scored 145, at four years of age. Big whoop.

That reminded me that I had said on Twitter two days before that I knew several black folks in Ferguson who are smarter than I am. I said they were geniuses. I said, “Their families could build no wealth. They don’t have connections. They have not had the rich experiences I have enjoyed.

“So, they might be bumming out, being depressed. I ask that you have empathy for my friends who struggle as they do.

“And you shouldn’t have to be a genius to get some kind of consideration.

“I’m talking about you, @TheDreadPoet.” That handle is “Flames Baldwin”, my friend Jamell Spann. I believe him to be a genius.

He did not respond at first. He doesn’t have to respond at all. I don’t need anything out of it. I wanted the world to know these things about people here in #Ferguson, and about Jamell, in particular. He is a good example of what I am talking about.

Jamell is down again. I did not do it with the intention to buck him up. He popped in my mind when I considered these tweets about my smart friends.

He saw my tweets and said before the world–straight, without “quoting the tweet”–where you show everyone following you what the other person said, and then add your comment–“I really appreciate you, man. F’real.”

This meant a lot to me. It made me feel good. Instead of quoting his tweet, and showing all of my followers what this young black man thinks of me, I said, straight to him, “I think about you. That’s it.”

This back and forth was for us alone. Nobody else needed to see that. They could, but this was for us. That is the kind of flexibility Twitter affords you, and I think it made the interchange between us more meaningful. We are meaning-makers. I was allowed to take something extra away from that encounter that meant a lot to me.

And there is more. As Franni and I were discussing West St. Louis County, a black man on Twitter who lives in Maryland Heights jumped in to say that West County was OK, because he is “superblack”! I described the differences between Maryland Heights today and Des Peres in the 1970’s. Our dialogue provided me more space to make my case stronger. I thanked him for that.

Jamell was able to take what I had written about him–about highly intelligent black folks in Ferguson struggling because of their circumstances–and show that information to the entire world, again, from his account. He “retweeted” it. (He copied and re-sent my tweets). That is called “amplification” on Twitter. The message is amplified, because it is the same message being put out from different places. It works on the principle of accretion, like a snowball rolling down a hill.

Finally, these people who follow Jamell, but not me, or Franni, but not me, will get to see what I said, if they retweet me, or take my tweet and say something back to me. And my followers, who may not follow Jamell or Franni, can see their tweets, if I retweet, or “quote tweet”, them. This can have an exponential effect on all of our messages, as they are reflected out into the wider Internet. Then people none of us know, or follow, can retweet it, or say something back. I can do the same for them. We can wind up following each other a day later. When you get something “viral”, that passes around quickly, you know you are punching through with something that resonates with a lot of people.

My third example of something more interesting, and more likely to happen on Twitter than on Facebook, was my encounter yesterday with Chris, also known as “Me Me Thief” or @MastaofMp3s. We started following each other when #Ferguson kicked off in August, 2014. I am pretty sure he is a middle-aged white man, somewhere east of here in the United States. I have not met Chris. I have to shoe-horn this story in here.

Chris is a contrarian. He can be difficult, and slippery, in his arguments. Generally, we get along on Twitter, but we like to push on each other; drive each other, in order to nail down our thinking on a problem.

Yesterday, he became impossible. We got to talking about Donald Trump and psychopathy. His idea is that to say someone has a character disturbance gives said person license; that he or she is excused from accountability for their actions because they are mentally ill.

I said, Hold it right there. That is not what I am saying. Psychopaths know right from wrong, but they just don’t care. They are perfectly accountable, and culpable, for what they do. I went on to say that the Charleston church shooter, Dylann Roof, is likely a psychopath–showing no empathy for the people he murdered that day–and that the consensus was that he knew what he was doing was wrong, and now he would face the full force of justice, and rightfully so. The developer of the Psychopathy Checklist, Dr. Robert Hare, says the same thing: Never excuse the psychopath for what he does. Being diagnosed a psychopath does not excuse him: it assures that we know he knows he did wrong.

At this point, Chris mocked me, saying “Ladies and gentlemen, listen to the expert on psychopathy.” I responded that I was an expert, that it was forced on me, because I was a victim of one. I said “Obviously, it has never happened to you.”

Astoundingly, Chris replied, “I am one thank you very much I was diagnosed due to not filling out a mental health question form out right and not worshiping police as society demands…” He went on to say “…There is discrimination against evil people like me and Trump.“!!

That mental health form may have been a formal Psychopathy Checklist interview paper. And his comment about society demanding us to “worship” the police, reveals an animus against the police that potentially ties into antisocial personality disorder. Those with ASPD are openly at war with society. They either cannot, or will not, hide that fact.

This was unprecedented in my life. Psychopaths resist treatment. They don’t think anything is wrong with them. They are not unhappy. They think they are superior to all of the rest of us, who are constrained in our behavior by our obligations to others, our insecurities and anxieties, our emotions–feelings. Their feelings don’t work like ours do.

It is extremely rare for a psychopath to admit to being one, and here we had one announcing it on Twitter! To what end? To titillate, to shock? To end the argument?

I told him goodbye, and blocked him. I can block people on Facebook, and I have, but I just don’t think there would have come a time when “Chris” would say he is a psychopath on Facebook. It was incredible enough for Twitter. I really mustn’t parse this one any further. WOW! I triggered him.

Facebook is, by its nature, exclusive and closed, but open to initiates. Twitter, by nature, is inclusive, and wide open. The latter is a marketplace of ideas. I got on there two years before Facebook because I am a words guy; I thought, language matters. I thought if I have interesting, important things to say, I will be judged on my words alone. There was value inherent in what I had to say to the world, and about that world.

Now, we know it doesn’t quite work out that way. Famous people can say “I just drank a liter of Pepsi,” and get 45 retweets and 150 likes. I can say “.@MastaofMP3s just told us he is a psychopath,” and there is silence–no retweets; no likes. That’s the market. Depending on who you are, more value is attached to what you have to say. Crummy movies make a lot of money. What can I say? 🙂 I am the edgy art film, in a world of mainstream summer blockbusters.

I don’t mention the negative effects of the whole world seeing my tweets–trolls, real-life crazies who don’t like what I have to say, the inevitable misunderstandings that happen online. All of that happens on Facebook, too. People can find me on Facebook and we can connect if we see a comment we like on a mutual friend’s page; it may encourage us to “friend” one another.  I don’t talk about the influence certain groups have on Facebook to create change.

Still, I like Twitter more than Facebook, because it is a bazaar, and not a cloister. I like being on even terms with everybody. I judge people on Twitter by what they have to say. I don’t like managing groups, with their inevitable hierarchies and jealousies, and people who are trivial on Facebook I will offend if I drop them. Dropping folks offends, if you like the person who dropped you. Just ask me. On Twitter, I’m still waiting for Abby Phillip of the Washington Post to return. I don’t know why she dropped me.

(Photo taken in March, 2016, downtown St. Louis, outside Peabody Auditorium, where Donald Trump was making a speech).

5 thoughts on “The Cloister Vs. The Bazaar

  1. As I walked away from the auditorium that day that I took the photo above, I could hear Trump bellowing “Get ’em outta here!” over and over through the outdoor loudspeaker system. I also recall him saying “We’re gonna get the best people. The richest people. So they won’t be looking for a paycheck…”

  2. i would have the bazaar over the cloister any day…not only do the sights and sounds and smells stimulate me, but the crowds provide the anonymity i crave…it’s been many years since i’ve been on facebook, it can be a useful tool, but not one i’m will to forgo my namelessness for…i also felt i was often having to justify my position which often wastes everybody’s time…i’m a keeper of secrets, more other peoples than my own, so twitter it is for me, it brings more of the world to my life than the reflection of the echo chamber…

  3. Mary, that is vital and eloquent, what you have said. I feel remiss, now, that I didn’t talk about the sights and sounds and smells…and I love your idea about keeping other people’s secrets. I hope people read the comments, because you have just added serious value with yours! Dang it! This is really good. Thank you very much for bringing this to my website. I am fulfilled these days. My connections with others are deeper, hence, more rewarding. I am so glad I know you through the Internet. And thank you again, for the wee pounamu taonga.

  4. And we could go into the sensuousness–or lack, thereof–of the cloister–stuffy, airless, dead inside. No movement; little vitality. Total lack of anonymity: you are in a select club. I should have gotten this kind of thing in my article.

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